Sophisticated Scribbles: How Awkward

The scenario goes a little something like this: You’re walking to class, just minding your own business. Ahead you spot them: a distant acquaintance, a new student in your history class, a floor mate you haven’t seen since the first day of school, a friend of a friend, or worst case scenario, a past fling. Your eyes dart down, hoping they didn’t already see you notice them. What to do? Look lost in thought? Fumble through your book bag? They’re getting closer. You have to make a decision. You pull out your phone and fake text, allowing your eyes to flicker in their direction one last time to see if an acknowledgement is going to occur. Bad decision. Before you can even begin to smile politely you catch them mid glance, and embarrassed they too become engrossed in a nonexistent texting conversation.

Awkward. The spelling of the word itself is synonymous with its connotation. It’s a cultural phenomenon that has infected our generation. Myself included. We’ve become unnaturally obsessed with an irrational fear of the awkward. There’s even an MTV show titled, what else, “Awkward.” Here’s my newly developed theory; in the process we make things awkward. Unnecessarily. And I’m over it. I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re too melodramatic. Unfortunate? Maybe. Uncomfortable? Probably. Worth the stress? Definitely not.

Not to let my inner Georgetown nerd slip out here, but I OED-ed it. The original definition of the word awkward was a description of something oriented in the wrong direction.

Yet, it has evolved into this bizarre trend that we apply to a variety of social interactions. It’s not just limited to passerby interactions, awkwardness is everywhere. It’s awkward if I accept a friend request right after someone sends it even though it’s no secret that I’m on Facebook all the time. It’s awkward if you go out of your way to sit next to someone you were only recently introduced to even though neither of you know anyone else in the class. It’s awkward if you see a teacher outside of the academic environment even though you know they live in your town. All the time I catch myself saying things are awkward, even when it shouldn’t have to be. Like two seconds ago when I admitted that I actually read though a Wiki How page on how to avoid awkward situations to prepare for this column. Or earlier when I announced, “Guys I fell down the stairs by myself in Regents today it was so awk!” (True story.) Humiliating and slightly painful yes, but not awkward.

We need to work on our responses. Laugh it off and make the most of it. Life is too short to be staring at your phone screen all the time as you walk across campus. Take the above situation, for example. Just say hello. What’s the worst that could happen? They ignore you? C’est la vie. Their loss. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that I myself have been guilty of the invisible text offense, but I’ve also felt horrible about it afterwards. I think we would all be pleasantly surprised to realize that people actually appreciate the extra effort you take to be friendly and sociable. And if you do something you think has the potential to be awkward, chances are people really don’t care as much as you believe they do. They shouldn’t anyway. Life goes on. We say awkward way too liberally and it just exacerbates the discomfort of the situation.

So stop the trend. Say hi. Accept the friend request. Embrace the irony of running into a teacher at the movies. Sit next to that acquaintance in lecture. After all, we wouldn’t want things to get awkward or anything.

Quote of the Week: “Keep your face up to the sunshine and you will never see the shadow.” – Helen Keller

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